A ground-breaking ceremony took place in Taro today to mark the start of work to upgrade the Choiseul Bay Airfield.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Minister of Finance Harry Kuma, Communications and Aviation Peter Agovaka Shanel, the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia and members of the Choiseul Provincial Government.
The project, funded by the Governments of Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia includes sealing the airstrip and installing ground lighting.
The construction works will seal the entire airstrip and install ground lighting, to ensure that the Solomon Airlines Dash-8 will be able to land at the strip more reliably and safely. The project will bring greater connectivity to Choiseul Province, including improving tourist access to western Solomon Islands.
The works at Choiseul Bay are part of the SBD250m Solomon Islands Provincial Airfield Upgrade project, which also involves improving Seghe airfield in Western Province. Both airfield upgrades are being implemented by Downer New Zealand.
Throughout 2022, Downer has been working with local firms and communities to prepare the ground for construction, including moving 80,000 tonnes of gravel from Honiara to Seghe and Taro on 22 barge trips. On Choiseul, Downer has built a causeway, upgraded 4km of roads, and is employing 10 local staff to support operations. This number will increase as the project continues.
Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare affirmed, Solomon Islands bond with Australia and New Zealand is unshakable, rooted in friendship and respect.
“I take this opportunity to thank the Government and people and Australia and the Government and people of New Zealand for their assistance. This is a testament to our ongoing cooperation. As part of the Pacific family, we appreciate the continuous assistance that has been provided by your two governments. We look forward to continuously strengthen and nurture this relationship.”
New Zealand High Commissioner H.E. Jonathan Schwass acknowledged the collaborative approach to building critical infrastructure.
“The three-country partnership that is carrying out work at Choiseul and Seghe airfields is a great model for sharing the costs and risks of large infrastructure projects. New Zealand very much appreciates the collegial approach that we have seen from all parties working on the two airfield upgrades,” he said.
Australian High Commissioner H.E. Lachan Strahan said Australia was committed to delivering good quality, resilient infrastructure using local resources wherever possible. “I understand that Solomon Islanders will make up 80 per cent of Downer’s workforce at its peak and I’m pleased to see that ten local people have already been employed.”
The Taro upgrades will be completed in August 2023. Work will then begin in Seghe and will be completed by April 2024.
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